File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU
File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is set to be hit with yet another strike by employees, but this time over its migration to a biometric system.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) announced on Monday that it would embark on a nationwide strike at the agency’s offices from Wednesday.

This strike comes just a few months after members of the Public Servants Association at the agency downed tools after wage negotiations collapsed, with the matter eventually settled by the labour court.

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the strike follows failed negotiations with Sassa over issues workers encountered while using the system that has jeopardised the payment of grants to some of the 17-million beneficiaries in the country.

The union is also contesting the unilateral implementation of the biometric system, saying new performance agreements for workers linked to new roles had not been determined.

Sassa is mandated to provide comprehensive social security services in the form of social relief and grants to vulnerable and poverty-stricken South Africans.

Nehawu said the agency and the department of social development failed to engage extensively on the functions of workers during the migration to, and use of, the biometric enrolment and payment of beneficiaries.

Sassa’s payment system has undergone a transition since the Constitutional Court declared its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) invalid while allowing it to continue with payments until March.

Following government intervention, the South African Post Office was awarded the contract to distribute grants, except for cash payments. Saphetha said flaws in the new system were “detrimental to beneficiaries” reliant on social grants.

“As it stands, many beneficiaries have not been paid their social grants or been taken through the process of transition and the migration from CPS to Sapo. This is attributed ... [to] the challenges and experiences brought about by the invalid CPS contract, which has subjected beneficiaries through its subsidiary company, Net1, to illegal deductions related to loans through the Grindrod Card,” he said.

The union also said the new system had been misrepresented to workers who were under the impression it was meant to improve the security of the social pensions system after they found it was susceptible to fraud. 

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za